Expect to see more bushranger beards and topknots in the property industry. Tech is going ‘prop’ and seeking to disrupt the real estate industry by changing how property is funded, designed, constructed, managed, used, rented, bought and sold. Alongside all the other new ‘techs’ revolutionising existing industries, proptech is developing its own ecosystem and getting more and more media attention. Europe, and in particular the UK, is getting in on this global trend, with London becoming the proptech capital of Europe.

Real estate tech platform Disrupt Property has drawn up its list of the Top 20 Real Estate Investments in 2016, and from the hundreds of prop tech start-ups now active globally it has chosen to highlight 12 from the US, five from the UK, and one each from India, Singapore and Australia. These companies have recently raised millions in capital.

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Venture funders are getting interested in this area, and London-based Property Innovation Labs is Europe’s first venture capital firm focused on property tech. London-based events #PropTech and Propteq Europe are raising the profile of opportunities in this sector, and Mipim is now hosting a start-up competition for the most promising and innovative real estate newcomers.

Understandably, as it is still early days, the start-ups are going for easy wins by taking manual processes online and making current activities more efficient. Proptech businesses cover areas such as online estate agents, property search, management of temporary spaces, new types of workplaces, energy management, smart parking solutions, mapping, data and analytics.

As the sector matures, however, I hope start-ups will appear that use tech and innovative business models to address some of the big property and place issues we face, such as housing affordability, achieving ‘good density’, and securing more sustainable mixed-use solutions. The development of place is a complicated activity, and we really need a big step forward in how the real estate industry delivers. More disruption, please.         

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, consultants for economic development innovation.

Email: douglas@locationconnections.com